Nikon D1, D2, D3, D4 series cameras autofocus stopped working solution: gravity

I received this email from a reader (thanks Eco) regarding an autofocus issue with the older Nikon D1, D2, D3, and D4 series DSLR cameras and how to fix it with the help of…. gravity:

Nikon D1, D2, D3, D4 series AF (autofocus) stopped working issue and workaround solution

Just Recently I had the same exact autofocus issue with my Nikon D4.  Incidentally, I had the same issue with one of My Canon EOS 1DsIII Cameras. The D4 autofocus shield baffle on the bottom of the mirror box was partially broken or out of alignment. I did not drop or knock the camera. After more than 300,000 shutter releases, it just wore out.

Solutions and options

The best option is always to send the camera to Nikon for repair.

Free Solutions:

  • Use Live View – works more accurately than through the mirror pentaprism – but is annoying because it blacks out while you are firing the shutter, especially when using the “Continuous High” Drive (when you need to follow the action).
  • Use your camera/lenses in Manual Focus Mode – Works every time, but requires good vision and quick focusing Adjustment.
  • Now here is a free and unbelievably simple solution that has worked every time for me “Don’t laugh”, just try it: turn the camera upside-down and fire the shutter one or two times then let go of the shutter. You probably will hear a part drop & click (gravity will reposition the assembly back in place every time). Now press the shutter again. The autofocus should be working again. You can even turn the camera right side up. It will continue to be in focus until the lack of gravity takes it out of position. When it does just repeat the same upside-down gravity quick fix. It only takes seconds (no tools required). In fact, while birding and photographing sports (between the action) I just quickly turn the camera upside down with a couple of shutter clicks and go on shooting, even when I don’t have a focus issue (to ensure the parts are aligned when I fire the Shutter next.)
  • As part of the same temporary solution: if you want the camera to continuously auto-focus without the need to repeatedly turn it upside down: turn the D1 – D5 cameras upside down, fire the shutter once or twice, and stop depressing the shutter (the assembly realigns). Now as long as you fire the shutter while the camera remains upside down it will continuously autofocus (because gravity will not allow the assembly to come out of alignment).
  • Use the vertical shutter release (on the side of the camera) to make it easy to use upside down. Don’t worry, you will adjust and become great at it. I have taken 200 continuous images – all of them with great autofocus images.
  • Please note: I have no idea how long this temporary solution will continue to work on your camera. Months or years or a lifetime or two? So eventually you might want to have it serviced by Nikon.

Here is some useless information:

  • I have been a photographer for more than 40 years, I have photographed with all of the professional Nikon cameras (from old Nikon F2 -F6, From D1 – D6  even Mirrorless J & Z series, Canon F & A series, EOS 1D series M & R series, Sony Alpha Pro A series, Sony 7R series, Fuji Pro series, Leica film and digital, Hasselblad C, ELX series film cameras, Hasselblad H 3 – H6 digital series and too many more to mention.
  • The simple answer is to pick the right tool for the job. If it works for you then you found the answer. Live for the Image (the result).
  • No one needs to know what paintbrush Leonardo used for the Mona Lisa!
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